HARLEIAN LIBRARY -- [William OLDYS (1696-1761), Samuel JOHNSON (1709-84) and Michel MAITTAIRE (1668-1747)]. Catalogus Bibliothecae Harleianae. London: Thomas Osborne, 1743-45.
8o (200 x 120 mm), 5 volumes. CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH GOLD-TOOLED CRIMSON MOROCCO BINDINGS, straight dentelle border on sides, spine tooled and lettered in compartments, gilt edges, marbled endpapers, (skilfully rebacked by Roger Devauchelle, preserving the original spine-strips). Cloth folding cases. Provenance: Marquis of Bute (according to a pencil-note by Munby) -- A.N.L. Munby (bookplate, Sotheby's 22 March 1976, lot 212).
FINE COMPLETE SET of Osborne's catalogue of the vast and magnificent library formed by Robert Harley, first Earl of Oxford (1661-1724, Queen Anne's minister), Edward Harley, second Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) and their brillant librarian Humfrey Wanley (1672-1726). With Devonshire, Pembroke and Sunderland, the Harleys were among the first English bibliophiles to collect early printed books. A year after Edward's death, his widow sold the printed books (some 50,000 in number) and some manuscripts to Thomas Osborne. In 1753 she sold the bulk of the manuscripts to the nation, which now continues to form one of the glories of the British Library. (The Harleys were also the earliest collectors of autograph letters and historical documents, which through marriage and inheritance found their way to the great archives at Longleat.)
Although this was a bookseller's catalogue, the prices were not published. Osborne marked them in the books, which could be seen and purchased from specified dates onwards. The size of the library meant that the problems of logistics and cataloguing were considerable, and sales were dissappointing (see following lot). Maittaire's dedication in vol. 1 is addressed to Lord Carteret. The "account of the Harleian Library", in fact a solicitation of subscription to the catalogue, was written by Dr. Johnson. Vol. 3 contains the "Proposals for Printing, by subscription the Harleian Miscellany. The Bute-Munby-Breslauer set is bound in contemporary decorated morocco, an EXTREMELY RARE CONDITION for this catalogue, which for all its shortcomings is the only permanent record of the Harleian printed books. Breslauer and Folter 102.